Monday, July 31, 2006

Editors -- who needs 'em.

Daniel Schorr on blogging:

"What we have here is a medium in which there is no publisher, no editor, no anything. It's just you and a little machine and you can make history. I find that scary. Nobody should get into print or on the air without some kind of editor. I have an institutional belief that nobody can be above having a good editor."

From Romenesko (via A Capital Idea)

I was actually thinking about this recently, noticing how many web sites and blogs (this one included) have, among other things, horribly written headlines. Headline writing, I really think, is an artform, a skill that not everyone possesses. Somewhere in between are the people that -- like me -- have difficulty crafting a good a headline, but can spot a bad from a mile away. Then there are the people who think that puns are the highest form of humour, and litter their headlines with them.

I won't take that topic any further -- any regular reader of my column should know what I think about puns.

The point is this: bad headlines are the least of your worries if you're writing without an editor handy.

The average blogger probably doesn't know the first thing about plagarism. The average blogger probably doesn't know the first think about libel. And, while the average blogger is probably safe from this sort of thing most of the time, we all get our panties in a bunch now and then, and get off on a rant that we might regret after a few days. Unfortunately, regret is rarely enough once the damage is done.

And it's probably fair to bet that if a blogger doesn't have an editor on staff, he doesn't have a lawyer on staff either.

It's surprising that there haven't been more lawsuits -- or, if there have been a flood of lawsuits already, it's surprising that they haven't been more wildly publicized. Is it that Internet writers have, so far, just gotten lucky? Is it that most libelous weblogs aren't actually read by enough people for the lebelled party to ever find out about it? Did lawyers around the world suddenly decide that there was just far too much litigation already tying up the courts?

Either way, I agree with Mr. Schorr's comment, that there is no one that can't be helped by a good editor.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Time Killing FTW.

I swiped this little Q&A meme from over here (can't remember for the life of me how I even ended up at that site, random clicking seems to be the most logical answer). Here we go.

1. Grab the book nearest you, turn to page 18 and find line 4. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut - "stadtische Ordnung hineingesat; da ruhmie mir der"

2. Stretch out your left arm as far as you can. What can you touch? My laser printer, and in it an aborted print job of my last completed novel -- aborted because, after starting the print job, I realized I didn't have anywhere near enough paper to print the whole thing.

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV? No cable in the house. The television show I watched (on my PC) was the final episode of the current season of the Sopranos.

4. Without looking, guess what time it is. 3:15-ish

5. Now look at the clock. What is the actual time? 3:19

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear? Aimee Mann, Stupid Thing, from the "Whatever" album, which is currently playing on my computer's MP3 player.

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing? Sometime around noon, I think, to check the mail and see if I had a delivery notification card -- I'm desperately waiting for a repaired DVD player to get back to me.

8. Before you started this survey, what did you look at? My blogger log in screen, and then Wordpad, which I pasted the survey into so I could delete the previous surveyor's ansewrs.

9. What are you wearing? Black dress shirt from yesterday and lazy-day pants. Doing dishes and housecleaning today, and haven't climbed into the shower yet.

10. Did you dream last night? Probably. Don't remember it though.

11. When did you last laugh? The last time I actually recall was while playing 1980s-era arcade games on the gamecube with my roommate last night, but I'm sure I chuckled at something earlier today.

12. What is on the walls of the room you are in? Paint. Mostly white, but one wall is sort of covered with green swooshes and splats. One of the walls has someshelving, with a bunch of my more expensive books on it.

13. Seen anything weird lately? I saw a pair of shoes -- just a pair of shoes -- in the parking lot outside Canadian Tire a few weeks ago. Made me think that someone had been shot with a disintegrator ray.

14. What do you think of this quiz? It's delaying the next load of dishes, so it's not all bad.

15. What is the last film you saw? Moulin Rouge, in the company of friends.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy? A brand spanking new computer with at least a 40" wide screen monitor, I'd pay off my house, pay off my remaining debt, and buy a new car.

17. Tell me something about you that I don’t know. I secretly like to sing. Really, really loudly. But usually only after a couple of drinks, and when I'm alone.

18. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt and politics, what would you do? Let's get rid of this whole stupid poverty thing. It's really rather unneccesary.

19. Do you like to dance? I'm pretty lacking in rythmn, so for the most part, no, but when the music slows, and the lights dim, I can't think of any reason I *wouldn't* want to have my arm around someone special on the dance floor.

20. George Bush: makes me grateful I'm a Canadian.

21. Imagine your first child is a girl. What do you call her? I can't even name my fictional characters without weeks of stress.

22. Imagine your first child is a boy. What do you call him? See last answer.

23. Would you ever consider living abroad? Sure.

24. What would you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gate? "I don't want to fixate on the negative, so I'll start off by saying that you did a pretty good job. But if you want to discuss ways that you could have improved your performance, come and talk to me in my office later."

25. 3 people who must also do this quiz in their blog: I don't know if three people with blogs routinely visit this spot, so I'll just point the finger of evil at Elise, who has been known to drop by on occasion.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Tonight on a very special Stick Figure Drama Update

Stick Figure Drama special features are finally available, after months of my intending to get around to doing this. I know the weekly strips are in pretty dire need of an update, and that's coming soon, but c'mon, this stuff's even better. It's rare material! It includes the 2004 Cariboo Advisor Photo Album advertisement, the 2005 Cariboo Advisor Photo Album advertisement (which, finally, attaches a name to every stick figure drama character), and the 2005 Christmas advertisement (which some people feared would offend christians, so you know it's gotta be good).

It also includes the first ever appearance of the original version of Stick Figure Drama #70, which was yanked from publication at the last minute because of it's controversial nature.


An update, because things have been pretty dry around these parts.

My lord, this heat.

I can't see straight. I can barely think. The only thing I'm actually capable of doing is sweating, and I'm pretty sure that's automatic.

I'm sure there are hotter places in the world, and I know that leads people to suggest that I should quit my damn complaining. I'm just glad I'm not in those hotter places right now. I don't think I'm built for this weather. Though, I suppose I'm still trying to figure out exactly what my body's built for, besides being a temporary storage container for liquor.

Against my better judgment, I started picking away at a new novel the other night. Slowly. And I mean fucking sloooooowly. It's looking about 1600 words every four or five days, instead of the 1600 words every day that I'm used to for national novel writing month.

I think I'm afraid about the sort of commitment a novel requires. I think I'm afraid of losing the next 30 to 60 days of my life to this thing, because once it gets rolling, it really gets rolling, and there's no tearing yourself out of it. I'm gettin ga pretty good sense of what the book's about, though, just from leaving it in the back of head to simmer for a few months. Which is something I need to remember to do when I have an idea for a story or a novel. When the first flash of inspiration hits me, it's never well-enough formed for me to actually sit down and work on it then. It seems like it is, but I only need to get about a page and half into it before I start noticing that there are big gaping holes where all the important points should be. And then I'll back off for awhile.

But those gaping holes have been closing off pretty quickly. The core story -- which I think I've mentioned her before -- involves a character suffering from insomnia, who bumps into a group of people who intentionally going through sleep-deprivation in an attempt to stumble upon some sort of spiritual enlightenment.

With a set-up like that, obviously it's a story that's going to play with notions of faith and spirituality and the inevitable questions of, "Why are we here?"

A tragic high-school shooting will likely also play a role, if I continue down this path as planned.

After last year's NaNo "The Small Town Pornographer's Blues," which was sort of a deviation from the norm for me, I feel like I'm back in familiar territory with this one. A character who is broken and hopeless. A quest for meaning. And a writer's endless struggle to revisit familiar territory without repeating himself.

And, completely unrelated to this, and completely unrelated to just about anything, I've had Shakira's "Underneath Your Clothes" stuck in my head off and on for the last few weeks. I don't know why. And I don't know how to get rid of it either.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I got back on Saturday from a very brief vacation to Kamloops. As is my nature on road trips lately, I brought along my mp3 player and my whacky FM tuner thing, that broadcasts the signals from an audio device to an FM station, for ease of listening. The tuner kind of sucks, because the music is always filled with more static than I'd like, and the bass is weak, and blah blah blah, but it's also better than nothing.

I had a collection of Mike Oldfield stuff loaded up on my MP3 player, and on the trip home, I happened to cue up the "Amarok" album -- which isn't realy an "album" in the traditional sense. It's pretty much just a 60-minute track. But it's a 60-minute track of some of the most amazing music you will *ever* hear.

My research into Mike Oldfield in general, and this album specifically, indicates that this was something he put together as a "fuck you" to his label of the time -- Virgin Recores. It was a contractual obligation album. It was something he did to get the hell away from where he was working.

But, even as a "fuck you" album, Amarok is, at times, one of the most amazingly jubliant pieces of music I've ever experienced. Every single time I hear it -- and there have been many times -- there are points where I get chills, points where tears well up in my eyes at the beauty of it, at the joy of it. "Fuck you" albums shouldn't be this much fun.

But this one is.

If you don't know this work, and odds are you don't, you're missing out. And if you don't know Mike Oldfield at all, you're robbing yourself of the gift of one of the finest musicians of the late-20th and early-21st centuries.

I was going to write something about MySpace...

...but then I decided to save it for a column.

Instead I'm going to ramble about music.